WALL-E is one of those films on which my VC and I have widely disparate opinions. She considers it Pixar’s first let-down, while I side with the critical majority in naming it yet another triumph. What she sees is a slow-paced tale of how mankind let ourselves and the earth go downhill, an unengaging “romance” between two automatons with underdeveloped “personalities.” She doesn’t care for characters if they are too inhuman; she had the same problem with The Lego Movie and yet appreciated Cars and Brave Little Toaster.
Needless to say, I disagree with her assessment of this modern animated classic. Despite the potential pitfalls of casting an R2-D2 wannabe as the main character, WALL-E works. From the opening images of space set to “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello, Dolly! to the stunningly textured, photo-realistic cityscapes made out of trash, WALL-E is Pixar imagination in overdrive. I found WALL-E’s curious scavenging and his evocative noises provided by Ben Burtt ideally lovable for a robot, just as EVE’s sleek, vaguely feminine design made it clear why he was attracted. The characters’ laconic introduction before they enter space could have been an outstanding short film, but the fact that the filmmakers were able to follow up the winsome vignettes with an almost-as-successful main plot is a feat only Pixar’s artistry could achieve.
As stated, the film works as a simple love story and a tale of man’s return to Earth, but it features a number of mature themes that few animated films have tackled so effectively. For instance, critics have pointed out the Axiom’s similarity to Noah’s Ark: the ship bore mankind away amidst a flood (of trash) that destroyed the Earth, and a white forerunner was sent out to determine the planet’s viability, returning with a small green hope for future settlement. The film’s stabs at commercialism and over-dependence on technology are also timely social critiques; the way the human blobs chat with each other, completely oblivious of their surroundings, brought to mind the cell phone generation, similarly caught up in addictive games and distracting texts.
When I first saw WALL-E, I was expecting a heavy-handed admonition of how bad mankind is compared with the near-sacred vitality of the planet, a hackneyed rebuke seen in Avatar and countless other environmental sci-fi tales. Instead, the film emphasized responsibility. As the captain says to the plant, “Just needed someone to look after you,” his realization of how they have neglected their duties to care for nature and themselves is an environmental message that is subtle rather than banal. Whereas my VC found the end depressing since the humans have so much work and clean-up ahead of them, I saw optimism in the way the end credits depicted their competent resurrection of the planet’s former glory, using machines as assistants rather than caretakers. In addition, Peter Gabriel’s “Down to Earth” belongs in my End Credits Song Hall of Fame.
WALL-E boasts perhaps Pixar’s most astoundingly realistic animation, but I agree that it is neither their most entertaining movie, nor their funniest or most touching. Its robotic silliness has its limits (the “mice” that cover EVE in the Axiom’s dump are a bit too much), and there’s even the familiar he’s-dead-no-wait-never-mind cliché, which is enigmatically resolved. WALL-E and EVE may say each other’s names more often than Jack and Rose in Titanic, but as in that film, their romance manages to be touching and heartfelt, even if they’re just robots. Plus, any movie that reintroduces a classic musical like Hello, Dolly! to a new generation has my blessing. My VC can disagree, but WALL-E was another high point for Pixar.Best line: (Captain McCrea) “Out there is our home. Home, Auto. And it’s in trouble. I can’t just sit here and do nothing. That’s all I’ve ever done! That’s all anyone on this blasted ship has ever done. Nothing!” (AUTO) “On the Axiom, you will survive.” (McCrea) “I don’t want to survive. I want to live!”
Artistry: 10 Characters/Actors: 8 Entertainment: 7 Visual Effects: 10 Originality: 9 Watchability: 8 TOTAL: 52 out of 60
Next: #103 – Brother Bear
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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